Slow but steady

By Todd Cohen

After raising $36,000 over two years, Raeford/Hoke Habitat for Humanity is preparing to get started on its third house.

Chartered in 1997, the Raeford-based all-volunteer affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, Ga., has selected a qualified family for the new house, a process that took 18 months, and selected a site on Balfour Road in southern Hoke County, says Tom Landry, who heads the Habitat board.

The all-volunteer agency also has secured donations of products and services from local companies, including the house itself, electrical equipment, and surveying, title-search and construction services.

While construction takes only three to six months, fundraising takes a lot longer, says Landry, who is program director for Manna Day Reporting, a structured-day reporting center sponsored by Manna Church that works with juveniles suspended from school or ordered by a court to attend a life-skills program.

“Hoke County is not one of your richer counties,” he says. “A good part of the population do not have funds or the ability on their own to purchase a home.”

While only 17 miles separate downtown Raeford from downtown Fayetteville, he says, Raeford/Hoke Habitat lags behind Fayetteville Area Habitat, which builds 10 houses a year and aims to double that rate over the next two years.

Using income from mortgage payments on its first two houses as part of the funds it will use to build its third house, Raeford/Hoke Habitat does not begin a new house until it can cover its entire cost, Landry says.

While Habitat volunteers built its two previous houses from the ground up, Bunce Construction in Raeford has donated a 1,200-square-foot, handicapped-accessible house with two bedrooms and one bathroom for the new project, says Regina Sutherland, a member of Habitat’s board and its immediate past president.

The house has been moved from Fayetteville and will be expanded with construction of a third bedroom and second bathroom, says Sutherland, a lawyer with the firm of Willcox, McFadyen, Fields & Sutherland.

Hobbs Upchurch, an engineering firm in Southern Pines that has donated surveying services for Habitat’s two previous sites, also will contribute the surveying for the new house, while Bobby McNeill at the law firm Hostetler & McNeill is donating legal services.

Lowes is donating $3,000 in materials, Lumbee River Electric Membership Corp. in Red Springs is donating an electrical pole, box and meter worth $400, and local construction firms will help clear the one-acre wooded lot, which is being donated by Mr. And Mrs. Charles Sandlin of Lumberton and Anne Hostetler, whose late husband, Charles, was McNeill’s law partner.

Habitat raises most of its money from local churches and their members, and also collects cans at a site on Highway 401 business in Raeford, and holds an annual chicken-plate sale the last Thursday in May.

In addition to the time required to raise enough money to pay for a house, finding qualified homeowners also takes time, Landry says.

Habitat opened the application process for its new house three times and received 20 applications before it found a family that qualified, he says.

In addition to paying interest-free mortgages, Habitat homeowners contribute “sweat equity” in helping to build the houses.

Despite the time it takes to gear up to build a new house, Landry says, Habitat has set itself the goal over the next 10 years or so of building 10 houses, and then using the income from mortgage payments to finance a new house each year.

“The more houses you build,” he says, “the faster you can save up for a new house.”

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